TORONTO – The Toronto Marlies’ 100th home game was significant to the team – but only because it was a win.
Robbie Earl scored the winner as the Marlies edged the Hamilton Bulldogs 2-1 in American Hockey League action on Saturday.
“I didn’t even know it was the 100th home game, so that’s about how much I’ve been thinking about it,” Marlies coach Greg Gilbert said. “It’s great for the organization. I hope it’s 100 more games in this building cause it’s a great venue and we get really good support.”
Earl snapped the shot in with just 3:18 remaining in regulation.
“I came down the wing, cut to the middle and used the shot that I have and it found the back of the net,” he said. “It was a tight game.
“Being able to take advantage of the opportunity (to score) was great.”
Gilbert said he’d like to see Earl embracing the sniper role a bit more.
“I keep telling Robbie that if he shoots the puck more, he’s going to get more goals,” Gilbert said. “He’s a real good kid. He’s got a great work ethic. He’s learned to play without the puck, and it’s good to see him put some numbers up.”
Bates Battaglia added a goal for the Marlies (25-6-0-4).
Cory Locke replied for Hamilton (13-15-1-5).
Justin Pogge, who had six consecutive starts, was given a rare night off in favour of Todd Ford, who made 14 saves.
Jaroslav Halak made 33 saves in taking the loss.
“Todd Ford came up big for us, making some big saves letting us win,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert wasn’t as happy with the team’s overall effort.
“I thought we were sloppy in a lot of areas in our game,” he said. “We ran up against a good team last night and maybe we thought this was going to be an easy game. I have no idea what the thought process was, but we just weren’t sharp.”
Toronto was 0-for-2 on the power play, while Hamilton went 1-for-3 with the man advantage.
Toronto opened the scoring when Battaglia came out from behind the net and stuffed his third of the season past Halak.
Cory Locke replied with a shot from the point for Hamilton to tie it 1-1 with a little less than five minutes remaining in the middle frame.
Midway through the third the Bulldogs almost scored the tiebreaker when a puck deflected in front and rolled through the crease, only to hit the post and trickle off to the side of the net.
Notes: Toronto was without leading scorer David Ling for the third game in a row. He was attending to personal matters. . . . A roar went through the crowd when the scoreboard displayed Canada’s game-winning overtime goal in the IIHF World Junior Championships in the gold-medal game versus Sweden. . . . The Marlies now embark on an eight-game road trip. The first stop is Milwaukee to take on the Admirals on Thursday.